Wednesday, January 29, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra: A Car Person Looks at Opel

GM CEO Mary Barra has a Herculean task on her hands turning around the flaccid and inward-facing culture at GM.  Her position on Opel sounds like the view of a person who likes and understands cars, which she does.  Apparently, she can throw a car around a test track with authority.  I can still see images of former GM CEO Roger Smith slow riding a Chevy Beretta around a track: you could feel the death of that car just watching it go down the track.

In 2009, we wrote about the relationship of GM's destruction of its own Saturn concept, and the sudden turn to Opel for new models.  One stupid strategic decision forced another set of sub-optimal decisions which hurt Opel in the longer term. Of course, the Federal government as owner once tried to force a divestiture of Opel. Note to self: the government should never own private businesses.

CEO Barra has to forge a new relationship with labor in Germany, and for this she needs some strong, accountable executive partners.  Next, there has to be a program of new model introductions that are not just reactive but innovative.  This seems to be where her interests lie, and she needs to prepare the dealer network to commit to her plans.

With all the talk about small SUVs and what the Brits call smaller "estates" it shouldn't be too hard to come out with products that consumers want to buy, and by that I don't mean electric vehicles.

Here's wishing her success.

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